Fitness Friday: Are You a First Generation Fitness Enthusiast?

Happy Friday everyone! I wanted to try something a little different for today’s #FitnessFriday post.

Until recently, I was one of the only people in my extended family that was really in to health & fitness. A little while back, my cousin Jill started kicking butt & taking names by ramping up her fitness & dropping a significant amount of weight (good job, girl!!) My “cousin-in-law” Beth also joined the party and despite having four young kids and a full-time job, she is up at 4:30 a.m. to hit the gym before the kids are up getting ready for school.

Then LOTS of other cousins and my sister started the 21-day Advocare challenge. My sister lost a whopping 40 pounds in 40 days!!! My cousins have all posted great results of their own on Facebook & continue to drop pounds each week.

We are all what I call First Generation Fitness Enthusiasts. By that, I mean we didn’t grow up with moms and dads who did Jane Fonda or mall-walking (at least as far as I know!!!)

At some point, we each came to the conclusion that we wanted it enough to BRING IT, despite the time, energy, effort it took or the fear of making a change.

Because change can be scary, right? Change brings up feelings from the past, maybe when we tried something that didn’t go so well. The image below says it all:  If You Change Nothing, Nothing Will Change!

nothing-will-change

Question: Are You a First Generation Fitness Enthusiast? What prompted you to embrace change and opt for a healthier lifestyle? Also, what motivates you to KEEP GOING when something comes up?

If you have a blog or Facebook page where you talk about your own fitness challenge & journey, I invite you to share your link below! It helps us all stay motivated when we realize how much we have in common with one another!

Have a great weekend!!

An Intelligence Gene? High IQ May Be in Our DNA

 

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Always been the smarty pants in your group?  Awww, SNAP!  Chances are, it’s in your DNA.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

A study of Dutch families (Gosso MF et al., 2006) found that Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) rs363050, located on the SNAP-25 gene is associated with “performance IQ” (i.e. non-verbal IQ).

Each copy of “A” at rs363050 in a person’s genotype increased the subjects’ performance IQ by an average of three points compared to those with no copies of “A”.The authors estimated that rs363050 accounts for 3.4% of the variation in performance IQ between people.

I learned this little tidbit while exploring my Health Traits on the 23andMe website.  A single user-posted question, “Is There Anyone Else with 2 Copies of the Gene for Intelligence?” sparked over 260 replies from users sharing their genotypes, those of their family members, as well as IQ scores, SAT/GRE scores, levels of degrees obtained, and much more to both support AND oppose the findings of this research.

When you get down to brass tacks, no one who fancies him/herself as intelligent wants to look at their own genotype & have it read otherwise … anymore than someone wants their Kindness Gene genotype to tell them they can’t be empathetic.

Of course for this and other similar discussions, there is the nature vs. nurture debate … it can be challenging to study heritability or genetic differences in intelligence due to the fact that it is difficult to rule out other factors such as environment and opportunities (Rowe et al., 1999; Turkheimer et al., 2003).

What are your thoughts re: intelligence and heritability vs. outside influences such as environment?

Have you been tested on 23andMe?  If yes, was your genotype what you expected?

 

 

 

 

The Science of Prevention

The Science of Prevention
Do’s and Don’ts that Could Save Your Life!

Running, Exercising Outdoors

The key to living a healthy, balanced life is practicing prevention. Benjamin Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

If you are not already well versed in your family medical history, I can not stress the importance of having those conversations. If someone in your immediate family has a chronic illness like heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a history of cancer, this is something both you & your doctor should be aware of.

There are basically two types of inherited disease: single gene inheritance & multifactorial (or complex) inheritance. Examples of single gene inheritance are diseases like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anemia. In those instances, there are no changes that you can make to your environment or you lifestyle to impact whether or not you will develop these diseases. Multifactorial inherited diseases are a different story. Examples of these are things like diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. If you inherited a risk factor for one of these types of diseases, taking preventive steps in your life could be difference between developing the disease or not.

Having regular physicals with your health care provider & scheduling recommended preventive screenings for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, and even depression could save your life. Many of these diseases, when detected early, can be treated with medication or in some cases even with simple lifestyle changes like diet and exercise.

Other preventive measures that are important for a healthy lifestyle and in some cases could save your life include:

Not smoking
Getting to & maintaining a healthy weight
Being physically active
Consuming a healthy diet
Not drinking excessively

I’m curious … are there diseases that you know of that run in your family that you could prevent or help your children or loved ones prevent with these tips? Comment below & tell me about it.

If you can’t remember the last time you had that physical or “annual” mammogram, schedule it NOW! Then come back to this page and tell me, “I did it!”

Is Your Morning Coffee Making You Sleepier?

 

Have you ever given up coffee for a week or longer?  I did it… once… for fourteen days.  The first day wasn’t so bad, but on days 2-5, I had a KILLER headache.  On the morning of day 6, I woke up feeling great and from then on the headaches were gone.Wait!  Don’t stop reading yet… I want to tell you WHY I did it!  First, I was intrigued at the promise of feeling “more rested that research suggested would happen”.  I couldn’t remember the last time that I didn’t feel exhausted by three in the afternoon.  Even an afternoon caffeine “boost” didn’t seem to help.The research was right!  For years, I’d woken up tired & angry to an annoying alarm clock.  Once I kicked the caffeine habit, I felt like I was getting more sleep at night and waking up before my alarm went off feeling rested.  I didn’t feel like I was dragging in the afternoon, and I had far more energy in the evenings to exercise & prepare meals.

I recently stumbled upon another benefit… You know how when you have a a cold or flu (I mean really bad… like you can’t even get out of bed for a drink of water).  I was recently battling a cold.  I didn’t feel feverish or stuffy any longer, but my head was THROBBING… so much that I couldn’t get out of bed to take an ibuprofen for my headache.  At about 2pm, I forced myself out of bed and made myself a cup of coffee.  After about an hour, my headache went away.  It dawned on me that I hadn’t had a cup of coffee in about 36 hours, hence, the headache!  So I thought I was still suffering from my cold symptoms when I really had a caffeine hangover!  Hardly worth the extra day I lost in bed thinking that I was still sick!

We can blame our caffeine consumption partly on genetics.  Research shows that people with a certain genotype near the AHR gene consumed about 20 milligrams more caffeine in a day than those with with another genotype and 40 milligrams more than people with a third genotype.  The rest is behavioral and can be controlled with a little trickery.

Cut back.  If you are drinking more than one cup of coffee in the morning, cut back to just one for a few days.  Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages the rest of the day.  Try hot herbal teas or hot water with lemon as a replacement.

Switch it up.  Swap your cup of coffee for a cup of green tea.  Many green teas still contain caffeine, but at least you’ll benefit from the antioxidants in the tea.

Challenge yourself.  For me, my morning cup of coffee is more about the ritual.  I always liked stopping off at Peet’s in the morning, and saying hello to my favorite employee.  It kind’ve lifted my spirits to treat myself in the morning before jumping on the freeway for a less than pleasant commute.  SO, I didn’t give up my ritual!  I ordered peppermint tea instead of my usual coffee, and I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing anything.

So challenge yourself… even if only for the sake of curiousity!  Try giving up caffeine for two weeks and see how you feel.  In my wellness plan questionnaire, I ask clients how many caffeinated beverages they consume on a daily basis. Someone answered “mainline IV!” Even SHE took a break from caffeine for two weeks and noted that by the sixth day, she felt more rested, less sluggish AND woke up before her annoying alarm told her she had to. I consider that a huge benefit!


What do you think?  Ever taken time off from caffeine?  What was it like?  Did you stick with it?  Share your stories below!

Don’t Let Your Genes Define You

 

I have a personal triumph story to share, and I hope it inspires you when you think that your genes define you.The first time I had my cholesterol levels tested, it was shockingly on the high side.  At that point, I was twenty-one years old, relatively thin and fairly active.  I was actually working in a Nutrition and Heart Disease laboratory at the time as a Research Associate, and I was learning quite a bit about genetic predisposition for a number of cardiovascular diseases and if changes to diet could in fact help a person avoid these diseases.I kept an eye on my cholesterol for the next several years and even though I knew more on the topic than the average person my age (e.g., the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterol) I stupidly did not make any modifications to my diet to keep the numbers in check.  I’m sure laziness was a key factor in addition to the fact that I was coming off of the starving student years and thrilled to be able to afford more than bagels and bananas at the grocery store!About three years ago, I made a huge leap and became a pescetarian.  I figured that by giving up meat, I was not only saving animals lives but potentially my own by the huge amounts of fat and cholesterol that I’d be avoiding.  A year into this semi-vegetarian lifestyle, I couldn’t wait to go for my annual cholesterol check.  I was shocked and seriously disappointed when the numbers had in fact not gone down… but up by about 30 points!!!  After a little thinking, I realized it must be all of the cheese I was eating to compensate for the lack of meat in my diet.  I had also started to get much more regular cardiovascular exercise & strength training during this time.  Something else had to be done, and I needed to get smart about it if I wanted to avoid starting statin therapy in my thirties.I began to do research and planned to start a sort of “food detox,” where I avoided several foods for about two weeks to encourage myself to make new food choices rather than those upon which I have forever relied (I had still been lazy up until this point, often choosing foods that were quick & easy versus good for me).  For a week, I ditched foods such as dairy, soy, wheat, and anything processed.  Instead of cold cereal or non-fat flavored yogurts for breakfast, I tried apple slices with almond butter and fruit smoothies.  I felt really good after the “detox” period was over, and have continued to avoid most processed foods.  I also discovered Pu erh tea, which is known to have cholesterol-reducing properties.  Instead of having an afternoon cappuccino, I substituted a cup of tea.

 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I went in for my yearly cholesterol screening.  I was actually really nervous!  I was still exercising regularly, and my cheese consumption had dropped dramatically after being introduced to more protein-containing whole foods.  But the truth was, in all of the years I had been getting my cholesterol checked it had NEVER once gone down and had ALWAYS gone up.

The next day, I got a ping on my iPhone when a new test result from my doctor’s office was posted.  I was shocked and THRILLED to see that for the first time ever, my total cholesterol had gone down!  I still have some work to do on my LDL (bad cholesterol), but my trigylcerides had gone down by over 30 points!  I considered that a huge success and know that saying goodbye to sugar and artificial sweeteners had a lot to do with this accomplishment.

If this isn’t proof that lifestyle changes DO make a difference, then I don’t know what is!  I continue to drink my Pu erh tea every day, as well as include fiber-rich foods and vegetables into my diet.  You can see this isn’t something that I was able to change overnight, but your strength lies in perseverance.

I challenge you to set a life-changing goal today!  You CAN achieve it if you set your mind to it and get a little encouragement along the way.

 

Photo courtesy of www.surgical-blog.com

 

Is Worry Holding You Back?

Are you a worrier? Some people are more prone to anxiety due to a genetic mutation. Research focused on a gene known as the COMT gene has show that people with two copies of the met158 variant of this gene suffer from greater anxiety than others.

Don’t Worry

Don’t despair! Other research shows that even those with a predisposition to worrying can control their reactions to anxiety-causing stimuli and enjoy a calmer existence.

Dr. Dennis Greenberger is the co-author of Mind Over Mood, which was named the Most Influential Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Book by the British Association of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies. Mind Over Mood uses a tool known as “Thought Record” which helps people learn how to recognize, evaluate, and change negative thoughts necessary to decrease anxiety. By answering questions about anxiety-causing experiences, people are able to separate actual experiences from their mood or automatic reactions to the experiences.

Let’s say I’m going to take an exam for which I am well-prepared. However, when I enter the room, I immediately begin to feel like the other people about to take the exam seem more confident, look more prepared, etc. I have no information that this is true, and frankly, it has should have no impact whatsoever on my own performance — but worry can take the reigns and psyche you into feeling inadequate. By completing thought records, people can obtain a clearer picture of their thoughts and a deeper appreciation for how thoughts are affecting and determining their feelings.

Using this tool can really change perspective of a situation. It’s not easy work, but this learned behavior can have a tremendous positive impact on quality of life for those who suffer from chronic anxiety.

3 Easy Ways to Get Younger Looking Skin

younger looking skin, reduce wrinkles

Out of the 20,000 – 25,000 genes that comprise the humane genome, researchers have discovered that approximately 1,500 have to do with the aging process. While we can’t influence our genes, there are still many measurable actions that we can take to have great looking skin. Want to know what you can do to keep your skin looking youthful as long as possible? Keep reading…

1. Stop Smoking. Yes… here is yet another reason to QUIT smoking. As you age, your body naturally breaks down collagen which is why skin wrinkling occurs. Smoking decreases blood flow to the skin and breaks down collagen, causing your skin to age prematurely. Did you know that in as little as 2 weeks after quitting, your circulation begins to improve? Becoming an ex-smoker has many benefits.

Bioderma sunscreen, sunscreen from France

courtesy of Bioderma

 

2. Wear Sunscreen. Beware, sun worshippers! Not only does sun exposure cause premature aging, it is the leading cause of skin cancer. Trust me… I remember days of basking in the sun. Most of us have been there! After having a few moles removed and biopsied in later years, I’m much smarter about wearing sunscreen year-round. Take a lesson from someone who has been there… always apply sunscreen before exposure to sun and reapply often. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, your neck and your lips.

3. Drink more H2O. If your skin lacks moisture, you’re going to have problems. Make sure and drink eight glasses of water per day – more if you are exercising, flying, drinking alcohol or other activities known to cause dehydration. Use a moisturizer that has both hydrating and strengthening effects to maximize moisture retention. Eating foods high in water content like strawberries and broccoli is another way to boost hydration, and with these two in particular, you’ll get a boost of vitamin C as well.

Do you want to know more about easy ways you can get gorgeous, younger-looking skin? 



Four Tips for a Healthier Heart

Did you know that one in four women in the United States dies from heart disease? Pretty shocking, huh? That makes coronary heart disease (CHD) the number one killer of women in the US. There are many steps people can take to prevent heart disease. Concentrating on key lifestyle areas such as exercise, nutrition, and smoking is the best way to reduce your risk.

Here are 4 tips to help you become more heart healthy.

1. Stop smoking. Smokers are TWICE as likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers. Quitting is the most important thing you can do to live longer. In the first 20 minutes of quitting, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease. Within one year, the excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s. (US Surgeon General’s Report, 2010, p. 359) If you need any more motivation, think of your loved ones. Second-hand smoke is dangerous for them too. Quitting is hard, but there are many aids on the market that can help you. If the other members of your household smoke, be the strong one! If you vow to stop, you may be the inspiration they need to stop too. What’s better than helping your loved ones become healthier and live longer?

2. Move it! Your heart’s job is to pump blood through your body. You need to raise your heart rate for about 30 minutes each day so your heart can do this efficiently. If you aren’t getting regular exercise now, start slowly. Take a brisk 15 minute walk, then move up to 20 minutes and so on. Having a walking buddy helps with motivation, and you can get your social fix too. Walking and talking with a friend gives your mental health a boost as well.

3. Watch your diet. A healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Try and eat a balanced diet with high fiber foods like vegetables and fruits, whole grains opposed to white flour, and fish. Minimize dairy products that are high in fat, as well as other high fat items without a lot of nutritional value like cookies and cakes.

4. Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, you run a higher risk for heart attack and stroke. High blood cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and circulatory diseases. Know your family history! If high blood pressure or high cholesterol run in your family, you have to be even more diligent with your diet and get more exercise. High fiber foods and whole grains will help with you cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend drug therapy if diet and exercise aren’t doing the trick.

Drug Sensitivity and Genetics: What You Need to Know and Share with Your Doctor

 

At some point in our lives, we are all more than likely going to be prescribed medications to treat an acute or chronic illness.  The way each of our bodies responds to drugs is different, and our genes play a role in this.  The science that predicts a response to drugs based on genetics is pharmacogenomics.

If you have ever read the labeling information about a new or existing drug that you or a family member have been prescribed, you have likely read about possible adverse events (side effects).  Pharmaceutical companies are starting to include pharmacogenomic data in their products’ labeling.  If you have had genetic testing done, the results can help your health care provider choose an appropriate drug therapy for you, as well as determine what an appropriate starting dose would be for those with sensitivities.

If you haven’t had genetic testing done, drug response information from your immediate family
members can be helpful for your doctor to know as well.  Talk to your siblings and parents about their health history. Tell you health care providers if you are discussing drug treatment and you have had personal genetic testing done. Likewise if you are aware of a certain drug sensitivity or positive response to a drug of a sibling or parent.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there is an ongoing need for physicians to  educate themselves about pharmacogenomics.  If your physician is dismissive when you attempt to share this important information, you may need to look for a doctor who values informed patients who want to take an active role in their health care decisions.

 

 

More 23andMe Tips: Using the Family Inheritance Feature

As promised last Friday, I am following up my last post with another post on tips to help with your 23andMe relative finding endeavors!

I recently shared genomic data with a woman who was born around the same time as my grandmother.  We haven’t figured out our common ancestor yet, but from looking at our genomic data we share 10Mb of data on the X chromosome.  According to 23andMe, the region that we have in common contains genetic information related to female fertility.  Pretty interesting from a health and wellness perspective!

I know from chatting with some of the folks that I have met in the community that not everyone knows where to find this information.  This is what I am going to share with you today.

Log in to the service and navigate to Family Inheritance.  At the top, you will see an option “Compare the genome of” (yourself) “To the genome of” (people with whom you share genomic data) — Note:  names are hidden to keep member data private

Select yourself from the left hand column and begin going through your connections from the right hand column.  Initially, you will be looking at a Genome-Wide Comparison of yourself 1:1 against your connections.

When you find a shared segment of DNA (as I found a half-identical segment in the above picture in blue), you can then narrow your focus & look at specific genes per the options on the right hand side of the screen (Bitter Tasting, Circadian Rhythm, Endurance, Female Fertility, etc.)

You may be lucky and find your common ancestor after a few brief emails back and forth with a contact.  In most instances it will likely be more challenging, but after you find your common ancestry with one member the Family Inheritance feature can help you narrow down other relationships.  For instance, I met a predicted 4th cousin who also had a paternal aunt using the service.  He, his aunt, and I all share a half-identical section of DNA and therefore we could immediately focus on my 4th cousins paternal side to find our connection.

Happy relative finding!  As always, please feel free to comment on a post, email me directly, or Tweet any questions or comments!